How to Not Go Broke in a Bookstore

With finals looming over my shoulder, I’m dealing with a bajillion assigned texts to read and a frumptillion papers to write, (they’re not papers about math, luckily,) so the last thing on my mind right now should be going to the bookstore and buying even more books. Somehow, though, it keeps happening. One second I see the latest volume of Saga is out and next thing you know this “just look and see” trip meant just to relieve academic stress turns into me piling book upon book onto the checkout counter, planning to read them all immediately and saying the ones that are graphic novels don’t count as full books so I can get twice as many. Same for poetry collections.

This behavior is destructive for both my studying schedule and my wallet. I literally go to buy myself food, you know, for sustaining my life, and find I can’t afford these packs of ramen and easy mac n’ cheese, because of those books I bought. Time to call mom and dad! My parents, to their credit, try not to be enablers, but they are an English teacher and a librarian, so they generally categorize things like the latest Neil Gaiman or Gail Carriger book, and also this cool one here that just had a nice cover, as essential expenses due to their own biases. They know the genes they gave me!

Still, I am, as previously established, an “adult” who is getting nearer and nearer to the day those air quotes get forcibly removed from that title and I have to fend for myself. As such, I’ve come up with several strategies to better exercise self control, and decided to present them here, in case anyone else wants to gaze upon the majestic mind fruits of my brain labors, (try not to gag please, it’s impolite,) and maybe find new ways to keep yourself from overindulging as well.

Bring a Friend.

Friends can provide a useful safety net. If you have a non-book loving friend, this is easy. Just bring them and have them keep you from grabbing everything. This is, in fact, the only viable reason why anyone sould want to be friends with an anti-reader. That, or they have your same blood type and you’re making sure you have at least one person in your circle you can guilt trip into giving you a kidney or some bone marrow. Otherwise, reevaluate your social circle.

With fellow bibliophiles though, things get a bit more tricky. You could just wind up enabling and even encouraging each other to go for broke and just buy everything. To make it work, both you and the friend need to agree to go against excess, to really just window shop when you say you want to window shop. Handcuffing yourselves together so one or the other of you doesn’t wander off and start hoarding books like a hungry squirrel might be a necessary step.

The Bargain Bin

Like any other retail store, bookstores usually have a discount area. Make yourself focus only on those books on sale when browsing for buys. You might worry that this will simply lead to you buying even more books, because you can afford to, but fear not. Quite often, bargain books are bargain books for a reason. Usually, they are sub-par in story line or substance. Maybe they were made cheaply, with asbestos somehow. Do you want to bring more asbestos books into your home than you absolutely have to? Of course not! Problem solved.

Lose Your Wallet

Okay, not literally, but you can’t spend money you don’t physically have, right? Remove your wallet, or perhaps just the money and any credit cards you have, from your person and you can make as big a pile of books as you want, you just can’t buy them. The staff will really appreciate all the giant book piles you keep abandoning in tears throughout their store, trust me.

Your money can wait for you in the car, at home or somewhere else safe. If you’re feeling adventurous and a bit charitable, just give your wallet to the first small child you bump into as you enter the store. They’ll have loads of fun, and I’m pretty sure giving a child carte blanche with your cards and cash can be written off as a tax deductible. Otherwise, I’m not sure how my parents pulled through my childhood without going bankrupt. I was a very grabby child with an excellent memory for PIN numbers.

Physical Distractions

You know how they say you shouldn’t go to the grocery store while you are hungry? Well, turns out being hungry helps me a lot while shopping for books. Constant gnawing hunger is the only thing powerful enough to distract me and remind me that I will need to eat later  so maybe take it easy on those Discworld books I’m piling into my arms.

Other useful ways to distract yourself from buying all the books you can see include putting thumbtacks in your shoe, (which I think is also supposed to help you pass lie detector tests) or wrapping your hands tightly up with tape and turning then into useless flippers. The relative discomfort will distract you from your greed and make it extremely difficult, even impossible to pick up and flip through a book.

Go to the Library

Okay, with a librarian in my family, I guess I just have to mention this one. Instead of shopping for books in a bookstore, check out a library instead. You know, those places where you can get all the books you want for free. Hear me out.

Libraries may not have that delightfully new and shiny whiff of capitalist consumer culture, but they definitely still smell like books, both new and worn, well-loved types, and can have pretty expansive collections overseen by book loving librarians that are happy to help you find what you need, without even getting money from you.


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